Twenty years ago, Paolo Sorrentino began his relationship with the Venice Film Festival when he brought his feature directorial debut, One Man Up, to the Lido. This year, The Great Beauty Oscar winner is in town with The Hand Of God, an autobiographical drama that recounts the filmmaker’s own youth and the tragedy of losing his parents as a teenager.
Sorrentino told the press corps this afternoon that he finally felt able to tell the story, “perhaps because I am the right age to do it. I turned 50 last year and I thought I was mature enough to face such a personal film. A dear colleague told me I never make anything that is very personal, and I thought it was a challenge to grasp.”
Asked if this sort of project marks a shift in direction for his future films, Sorrentino said, “I came here 20 years ago right at the beginning, and I like to think this might be another first beginning.”
Praised for his bravery by the actors on the dais — including his frequent collaborator Toni Servillo — Sorrentino mused, “I am fearful in life, but in films I am quite brave I think. Perhaps I shouldn’t talk about that, but here the bravery that was asked was a little bit different. The bravery came out in writing the screenplay rather than in the filming,” which becomes quite technical.
Servillo commented that throughout their “long and fruitful collaboration, Paolo said that at a certain point he would find a way to tell this dramatic experience of his life. When he told me about it, he said he would ask me to be the father. It was very exciting and I felt very emotional when he asked, but he never asked to be what he conserves in the privacy of his memories.”
Filippo Scotti, who plays Sorrentino’s alter ego Fabietto, said he prepared for the role by observing the director and spending a month in Naples “watching films that Fabietto might like and listening to the music he might like” in order to “find that melancholy. Every day the set was a new beginning, and I never felt alone in this, I felt very lucky and very honored.”
The title refers to an expression used by late Argentine superstar football player Diego Maradona who went to play in Sorrentino’s hometown of Naples in 1984. Maradona was also inadvertently responsible for Sorrentino not meeting the same fate as his parents since the young man opted to stay home and watch a football match rather than travel with them to the mountains.
Sorrentino remarked on the title today calling it “a beautiful expression, paradoxical because it was said by a football player about the only part of the body that can’t be used in football. It’s a beautiful metaphor, an emblem, a title that relates to chance or to divinity if you believe in that. I believe in the semi-divine power of Maradona.”
Netflix is releasing The Hand Of God in select cinemas in Italy on November 24, followed by the rest of the world on December 3 and on Netflix on December 15.
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